About the movie

When I think of "intergenerational dialogue," I imagine verbal and direct conversation between two generations curious to fill in each other's gaps of knowledge with memories, questions, reactions, and wisdom. Sometimes these conversations commence in a structured environment, while other times they unfold naturally at the burning question of a son or daughter. 

I never imagined that I would be a part of such a transformative, creative, organic, and cathartic intergenerational dialogue process that led to the creation of WE WANT (U) TO KNOW. I have never witnessed anything crafted from such raw emotion and honest reflection as I saw unfold throughout the healing and creative process of WE WANT (U) TO KNOW.

As the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is currently underway, many documentaries and personal memoirs have surfaced seeking to describe what life was like under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Through actors, professional film crews, and expensive equiptment, many productions seek to re-create such astnoshing conditions on film sets and with paid actors. While each endeavor contributes significant insight into the unthinkable atrocities that were carried out against Cambodians between 1975-1979, and offers visual images for future generations to better understand their own history, WE WANT (U) TO KNOW was born out of the sheer desire and vision of an amazingly brave group of Cambodians in Tnol Lok village to tell their stories from their perspectives.

I strongly believe that confronting our histories and educating youth are essential to preventing cycles of hatred, violence, misunderstanding and intolerance from occuring in the future. However, how we chose to engage with history has profound consequences for how it is received, interpreted, represented, and inherited by future generations. What perspective of the Khmer Rouge regime do we want to portray? What information is shared, and what is withheld from the public eye? What legacies do we want to transmit to our youth, and what are the consequences of how we communicate our histories? In WE WANT (U) TO KNOW, the villagers--youth and adults alike--decided every aspect of this story telling and healing process.

In WE WANT (U) TO KNOW, we watch how one community chooses to engage with their history by taking themselves, and the viewers, on a journey through time and space.  Fragile elderly men and women direct and participate in re-enactments of their life under the Khmer Rouge together with youth and young families. I never imagined that anyone would voluntarily choose to re-enact such horrific and traumatic moments, but I can only hope that through such participatory action, the villagers found closure in acting out their stories as a community and watching curious youth gather around and to begin to ask questions. In this way, the entire process of WE WANT (U) TO KNOW opened a door to intergenerational dialogue; young children interviewing older women; older men carefully helping teenage boys find clothing to complete their Khmer Rouge "costume,"; middle aged adults acting out the stories of their elderly neighbors while groups of kids stood by and watched silently..until their questions overtook their silence and questions started pouring out; a young boy running around a Pagoda to find the perfect shots while filming an older woman's story of when the Khmer Rouge took her husband from that exact Pagoda over 30 years before.

I will never forget the moment huddled inside a bamboo house of an elderly woman, and watching as a 12 year old boy asked her questions about her life under the Khmer Rouge while another young boy filmed.  This is intergenerational dialogue in its most organic and truthful form; a beautifully crafted documentary filmed with incredible sincerity and courage from individual whose lessons and legacies are transferable across boarders, and whose humanity and emotions are universal.

WE WANT (U) TO KNOW is a visual response to the desire and commitment of the villagers of Tnol Lok village to re-visit horrendous memories for the sake of educating Cambodian youth of a history they know little about, raising awareness to the intolerance of the Khmer Rouge regime, and seeking ways to heal and find closure through story telling. WE WANT (U) TO KNOW is more than a film. It illustrates  a community's commitment to telling their history through their eyes. WE WANT (U) TO KNOW provides a human face to a inhumane history that is often reduced to a paragraph in a textbook.

These are families, widows, grandmothers, fathers, and grandchildren  who came together to shape their history and break the silences of the Khmer Rogue regime in ways that felt healing and productive. NAME OF FILM illustrates a portrait of history fueled by adult's memories and by the youth's questions. It is their stories. Their perpectives. Their voices.

When audiences view WE WANT (U) TO KNOW, they are doing more than simply watching a film. By engaging with the villager's stories, each member of the audience becomes part of a thread of history that the Khmer Rouge saught to obliterate, but that the individual villagers of Tnol Lok village refuse to ignore. I am forever grateful to the people of Tnol Lok village who afforded me the opportunity to participate and observe this incredibly powerful and inspiring process. These are their stories.

Leah Roth-Howe

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